The New Year is quickly approaching us. For most organizations, their fiscal year follows the calendar year; as a result, the month of November is critical to budget, business strategy, and marketing planning. During November and December, marketing professionals typically reflect on the types of activities that are helping their organization grow, which efforts have yielded the highest return on their investment (ROI), and which efforts should not be repeated. It is based on this analysis of what does and doesn’t work that professionals make their forecasts for the New Year.
The most important role of a marketer is to increase market share and stakeholder value. A proper marketing plan provides the marketer with an overview of where the business stands, what the competition is doing, where the business wants to be in a set period of time (usually twelve months), and the steps to be taken to achieve these goals.It explains the strategies around the target market, geographic area, product/service, channel, price, and promotion, and details around the implementations and strategies that will cost-effectively achieve an organization’s revenue goals and businesses outcomes.
In my experience, successful organizations spend their time crafting an effective and attainable marketing plan that will help them weather any storm. Successful marketers stick to their plan, and keep it up to speed with their competition and all other external forces (such as market trends and the economy).
Every business needs to have some marketing operating capital. Thus, the very first step before committing any marketing activities to paper is to establish a marketing budget for the fiscal year. That budget will guide the marketer towards the types of activities the organization can afford to pursue, and also their frequency. Without a budget, it is hard (if not impossible) to develop an effective plan.
The marketing plan should be realistic, measurable, time specific, consistent with the business’ priorities, and fluid – it should be monitored and revised at least once per month. The document should establish clear and measurable objectives and define performance targets. It should also identify and define who in the organization will be in charge of the marketing activities outlined in the document.
The plan should begin with an overview of the organization’s mission statement, followed by the marketing goals the organization wishes to achieve during the year. An overview of the organization’s products/services as compared to the competitor’s is also advised. Many marketers make use of a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities andThreats) to help guide them in the next portion of the plan. Based on the findings of the SWOT analysis, marketers can make projections for sales and growth.
The next portion (and most used by marketers throughout the year) covers the strategies and action plans required to achieve the organization’s goals. It is in this section – the tactical portion of the plan – that the marketer will address internal and external marketing, branding, public relations, and customer retention activities with detailed action steps, dates, costs, and forecasted goals.
With a solid marketing plan in hand, the marketer has a much better understanding of where their organization stands versus the competition – What their customers’ behaviors, wants, and needs are; where the organization should expand (as far as target market and geographical area); what the organization’s sales goals for the year are; and how they will execute their marketing activities within the budget.
A solid and attainable marketing plan is the blueprint for a successful business year, and every organization, small or big, should have one. Spend some time developing your marketing plan for 2012.